Thursday, January 17, 2013

Answers To At Least Ten Or More Questions

1. How's it going with Alan and school? Alan's adjustment; the school itself; your reaction to the change in your day; your interactions with those you've met through the school etc. (Maureen)

Alan is doing spectacularly well at his non-diocesan, independent/private Catholic school. In October he was already reading (without pictures and pictograms), and each week he has a spelling test consisting of about 9-10 three-letter words and he has scored 100% on all of them. All of his math tests have scored at 100%. He asks many questions about what he learns about his Catholic faith and/or talks to us about it quite often. I attribute this success to: A.) A small classroom with only 5 children, B.) A fantastic teacher, C.) The use of primarily old-school curriculum, most of it originating from home school sources (Little Angel Reader, Saxon Math, etc.), and D.) A learning environment that is focused on the academic in a happy, cheerful, and age-appropriate manner without lowering the standard to "everything has to be fun all day, all the time!"

That being said, Alan is probably the liveliest, most talkative child in the class, and we need to work on that a bit. Not that he doesn't have one or two "contemporaries" who feed off of him and one another. The fact that he is the sole only-child in the school, coming from a rather loud, free, and expressive family likely explains this situation.

As for me, I generally stay at the school everyday, since we have a 70 mile round trip each day to the school. Given that Alan attends half-day kindergarten (the only one in the metro Milwaukee area?), it just makes sense. I run the milk program and work on various tasks or projects, as needed. Often times I sit and work on cross-stitch. I have been a substitute teacher a handful of times, which I've loved. Occasionally, like today, I take a break and sit in a local coffee shop and blog or work on my own stuff. Granted, I could do that at the school, but sometimes a person just needs a change of scenery.

Each day at this school is a struggle and a blessing. Despite the fact that I am a morning person, waking up at 5:30 a.m. every day sucks. I get up and get myself ready before I rouse Alan and my husband, and I'm screaming out here, "I'M TIRED!!!." We leave the house at 6:50 each morning. Still, each day, as I drive into downtown Milwaukee, I can see the sun rise above Lake Michigan, and it never ceases to inspire me.

The good news is that every single person at the school, and I do mean every single person at this tiny school, is a joy to be around in one way or another each and every day. Almost five months in, I have yet to see a single instance of back-biting, negative gossip, or uncharitability. Everyone is cheerful, inviting, and caring. As a result, Char here has to work overtime to be the same in return, and I AM EXHAUSTED!!! It is HARD WORK being a Christian! I literally come home spent and in need of sleep because I am trying so hard to act in accordance and reciprocity of the example set before me. Not that I want to behave in a contrary manner, and not that the school necessarily demands such behavior. It's just so real and authentic that there's no other way in which to respond but to respond in like.

I directly attribute a large portion of the reason I have returned to the sacraments to the fact that the employees and families of this school have set an example that brings me FINALLY to the hope I have for a normal Catholic community/experience. Unfortunately, after 18 years, the school is at risk of closing next year, which I'll talk about some other time.

2.  Did you get to know the family across the road? (Amethyst)

This question is referring to the Lutheran home school family that now lives kitty-corner across the street from us. It has been a slow process, but yes, we have gotten to know them somewhat better. That being said, I have yet to meet the father, who works multiple jobs with odd hours. Alan plays over there maybe once every two weeks, and once in awhile, the Mom and I get to chit-chat. I admit that I'm always wondering if deep down they think we're heathens because we're Catholic, but I try to quiet that voice and go with the flow. They are the kind of homeschoolers where the home school has taken over the house, as opposed to the sorts of families who confine homeschooling to a designated area or room in their home. So when I visit, it's always interesting to see what the kids are working on.

3. Do you have a favorite saint and/or devotion? (Kasclar)

Not yet. I don't know enough about enough saints to answer. I feel good vibes towards Saint Jude and Saint Mary Magdalene (and not for freaky/goofy/liberal reasons!) Recently, I have reason to attempt a devotion to the Infant of Prague. I'm interested in most things Mary. I wish I would spend more time on the Divine Mercy devotion. Finally, our family is getting more and more "into" the Schoenstatt movement, which I do plan to blog about in the future.

4. Were you mad at the Church recently? (Angela)

Um, yes. I still am a little mad. The good news is that I've realized I can compartmentalize my anger over one or two very specific issues while at the same time continue to be a practicing Catholic and partake in the sacraments, which should (theoretically) help heal the remaining open wounds I have. For a long time, I couldn't see that and didn't want to see that. Though I mentioned it a handful of times on Cheeky Pink Girl, none of you know how many, many, many, many times I missed mass on purpose; months upon months upon months. I figured that if the main attraction for me was the Eucharist, and I couldn't partake in it, then why bother going? And besides, I wasn't interested in seeing any smug, self-righteous Catholics who hurt me just by their very existence.

Back this past summer, I contacted blogger Mark Shea, since I kept longing to talk about my issues with someone I actually believed was normal, intelligent, empathetic, and non-judgemental. He was all I could come up with in that category, which is a direct testament to his writing. I believed that what I saw in print was what I would get one-on-one, and I wasn't disappointed. He actually had me call him at home one night, and we were on the phone for about 2-3 hours. It was amazing how fast he honed in on the issues and made his diagnosis. (Granted, I only shared with him ONE of my issues - the other issue, well, I still don't know where to go and what to do about it.)

Basically, Mark said I HAVE to forgive all the Catholics who have hurt me. I DID NOT want to hear this. He also suggested that the enemy, Satan, was attacking me, which also made me flinch. On the one hand, it was great to have someone laugh with me about all the crazy, conspiracy theory, uber-judgemental bullshit that one experiences both in the Catholic blogosphere and in real-life orthodox/TRAD circles. But still, at some point he had to shut down my comedy act and remind me that no matter how mean and misguided some of these people might be, they are fellow human beings, fellow Catholics, fellow Christians. He made me understand that until I forgave them - including the nameless, faceless, anonymous troll types, I was dead in the mud.

I sat on this advice for a long time, not wanting to give up the ghost. At other times, I thought about it quite a bit. Sometimes I would move toward finally going back to confession and having a desire to confess all this anger. But every time I got close, something would happen to screw it all up. I vividly recall one such incident: We were at mass at a local basilica that is situated in an idyllic, natural setting. It was a beautiful fall day and for once I was open to going to mass. As soon as our family got situated in our pew, I looked up to see a father come in with a train of about six children. Most of the children were girls, and all of them (including a little girl who had to be about 2-3 years old), were wearing frumpy skirts down to their ankles. Right away I knew they were part of the "Modesty Squad" and I became instantly enraged. To my mind and tastes, these girls looked ridiculous. And for the rest of mass, all I could think about was how wrong this family was, how stupid I thought they looked, and how this is not the way to produce relevant Catholics who will make a difference in the world. At the same time, I kept telling myself things like, "Shut up, Char, what's it to you?" or "They have one way of being Catholic, you have another, and if it's real to them, what business is it of yours?" Of course, this family was sitting in plain view the entire mass. I literally spent large portions of the mass staring down at the wood in the pew, trying to force myself to not even catch sight of them. It was stuff like this - or an occasional peak onto Father's Z's blog, etc. - that would stop me in my tracks and keep me grounded in my anger.

At one point, I had a theme song for my anger. I showcase it here because if you listen to the lyrics, you will see how low I had gotten. The song is full of Catholic reference and the video, disturbingly so?, Catholic imagery. (Note: I still think this is a beautiful, insightful song, despite the heretical aspects of it. I expect aesthetes and artists to "get it." And yes, I know what Morrissey is referring to in this song, but I appropriated it for my own use.)

I was a good kid
I wouldn't do you no harm
I was a nice kid
With a nice paper round
Forgive me any pain
I may have brung to you
With God's help I know
I'll always be near to you
But Jesus hurt me
When he deserted me, but

I have forgiven Jesus
For all the desire
He placed in me when there's nothing I can do
With this desire

I was a good kid
Through hail and snow I'd go
Just to moon you
I carried my heart in my hand
Do you understand?
Do you understand?
But Jesus hurt me
When he deserted me, but

I have forgiven Jesus
For all of the love
He placed in me
When there's no-one I can turn to with this love

Monday - humiliation
Tuesday - suffocation
Wednesday - condescension
Thursday - is pathetic
By Friday life has killed me
By Friday life has killed me

(Oh pretty one, Oh pretty one)

Why did you give me
So much desire?
When there is nowhere I can go
To offload this desire
And why did you give me
So much love
In a loveless world
When there's no one I can turn to
To unlock all this love
And why did you stick me in
Self-deprecating bones and skin
Jesus - do you hate me?
Why did you stick me in
Self-deprecating bones and skin
Do you hate me? do you hate me?
Do you hate me? do you hate me?
Do you hate me?

If any of you are still with me after that, thanks. Like I said, that was the lowest, angriest point.

So anyway, Mark Shea helped me, the school helped me, and the prayers of my husband helped me. Right before Christmas, I went to confession after 22 months, and then joyfully, back to communion. Which resulted in me promptly returning to a scrupulous mindset, which is yet another issue for another time.

I still struggle with anger towards other Catholics. How could I not? I'm still me. I still have very strong opinions about the Catholic faith and how it's practiced. I will obviously continue to blog about this stuff, which is why many liked my first blog and why many wanted me to continue blogging. But this time around, in some way, shape, or form, I desire (please help me Holy Spirit) to do it in a way that is not only "me," but also a tad thoughtful, as well.

5. Has the drama at [bleep bleep siren we interrupt this sentence to not specifically go there] died down? (KNelson)

Dear Mr. Nelson, this past fall it got decidedly worse. For obvious reasons, I can't discuss it here. If you or anyone else wants to know, just email me. You, of all people, Mr. Nelson, would be very interested in the next chapter. At the current time, things are calm for all involved.

6. Will we every hear you sing? (Kerri)

What an odd, interesting question! Answer: Probably not. I don't like to sing in public unless it's a professionally rehearsed scenario, like a wedding. That hasn't happened in a long time.

I don't sing in church choirs because, regrettably, I don't like to sing church music. I would rather be in a choir that sings show tunes, etc.

There are old videos of me singing in high school, on videotape (VCR). If they ever get transferred to some digital format, I'll consider posting one.

6. Is the cigar smoking trad-ish priest still at your parish? (Alice)

No. He got moved to a parish one town south of us. We still hang out with him recreationally, going out to eat or having drinks with him at the rectory where he lives. Fittingly, we gave him cigars for Christmas.

When Alan had surgery at Children's Hospital in December, the traddy-ish priest did the pre-surgery blessing/anointing. He was also at our home until after 11 p.m. on the Epiphany, blessing our house and shooting the shit with us. Sometimes we go to mass at his parish.

He is very traditional (without having bailed to the Latin mass side, although I always wonder if he secretly wants to), and we enjoy the free (very free) exchange of ideas and Catholic happenings with him.

7. Every now and then, I read a news story about something very cool that someone has done or is doing - something that makes me sit up and thank God for making my fellow human beings so brilliant or loving or insightful. Have you read such a story lately, and if so would you care to share your thoughts on it? (John Henry)

I read a lot of books. If my week is going the way I want it, I will read from start to finish one to three books. Not every week is like that.

But in answer to your question, have I lately read anything like that? No. Not unless you want to thank God for the gift of excellent writers, in general, who make reading a good book possible.

However, just the other day, I discovered the program called America Unearthed on the History Channel 2. Being an archaeology junkie, this was right up my alley. And the premise of the show, that much of the learned history that we subscribe to is wrong, was like a premise after my own heart. It didn't hurt that the first episode I saw had to do with copper mining in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is a pet subject of mine in conjunction with my family's genealogy.

By the way, I do have to mention, in conjunction with Question #4 above, that blogger Mark Shea makes me thank God for the great human beings He created. And I think I'll add blogger Elizabeth Esther to that list, too.

8. Did you enjoy the latest Hobbit movie? (Priest's Wife)

Didn't see it and didn't want to. I am allergic to anything elves-goblins-Renaissance-Harry Potter-wizards-dungeons-spells, etc. I consider The Hobbit as part of that category. Although that being said, whenever it was a few years ago, I did go see "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe."

By the way, my husband loves anything C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. I understand why both authors are important to Catholic thought, so I'm not stupid enough to deprive my child of those authors when the time comes around. If the school he's at stays open, he will be reading plenty of both.

Another reason I probably wouldn't see The Hobbit is because if everybody is doing it or seeing it, my automatic knee-jerk reaction is to avoid it like the plague. If it seems like it's part of the Rite of Being a Good Catholic, I usually want no part of it, unless it's an organic development that makes sense. Case in point: "Bella" and "The Passion of the Christ." Have seen neither, and both are physically in my home. With "Passion of the Christ," it's because I can barely handle the sanitized 1960's movie versions of the crucifixion, so I know I won't deal well with an intensely graphic one. With "Bella," I want to be free of everybody's gratuitous gushing about how great it is and evaluate the movie on its own merits, but just haven't gotten around to it.

9. How did you choose the new blog name? (Maureen)

I thought a lot about how the teachers and families at Alan's school appeared to be good, holy, and well-meaning Catholics without living in a bubble. Granted, outside secular folks probably think the school and the practices of the families that go there are oppressively bubble-ish, but for people like me who search for the middle ground within Catholic orthodoxy, it was immediately obvious that something was different about the school, and it intrigued me and continues to intrigue me. And then I got to thinking about the reality/truth (at least I hope so, it remains to be seen) that a person can, in fact, be a decent, holy Catholic without living in a bubble or subscribing to bubble-ish notions. I decided that I wanted a major theme of the blog to be "popping" bubble thinking, and conversely, examining whether or not certain Catholic beliefs and practices might actually be aspects of bubble living without our recognizing it?

The "such a pretty" part of the name likely comes from a deep subconscious suspicion of anything that smacks of perfectionism. There's probably some mean part of me that relishes the idea of popping Catholic bubbles.

10. Do you know how glad I am to see you return? (Sherry)

No, I didn't, but thanks! It's nice to hear.

It was also nice to know I'm still held in some sort of esteem by people with actual brains, such as Erin Manning.

As a favor, if YOU think I have any sort of brain cells firing correctly, would you mind adding me to your blog role or doing a tiny little post like Erin did? I'd really, really appreciate it.

Whew! I've  been writing for almost three hours! It's almost time to pick Alan up!


  1. So what kind of Lutherans are your neighbors? LCMS? WELS? A college friend of mine and his wife are planning to homeschool their children because they want them to have a Classical education and the LCMS school doesn't offer that. I think their pastor homeschools as well for similar reasons and they have a church homeschool group.

  2. I am really happy you finally were able to go to Confession and receive Communion again!
    Angela M.

  3. Alice, the neighbors are Missouri synod. In my opinion, it's very unusual for a Lutheran to homeschool. Here in Wisconsin, where the WELS is located (I used to be WELS for 10 years), one would NEVER homeschool a child, given that WELS schools are such a cornerstore of their synod - it would be heresy to homeschool in the WELS. (Note, if Alan's school closes we would actually consider a WELS school for him. I say that, though, with a heavy heart.)

  4. Angela - thanks! I just wish I wasn't plagued with scrupulosity.

    1. God made you with all your little quirks and foibles and loves you very much.

      I know when I first came back to the Church after many years away I also suffered from an overactive conscience. I was so terrified I'd return to my old ways and pet sins that I was overly diligent. Father had to tell me to stop coming to confession so often. As the years went by (and especially after I stopped reading most trad leaning blogs that blame everything including papercuts and hangnails on the New (and now the 'newer' Mass)I was able to enjoy God's love and mercy more than I had. I'm not sure I am what you might call a joyful Christian and maybe not even a serene one but I've come to a point where I know God is in heaven and He will take care of everything as He sees fit (especially when I am not interfering with his plan lol!)

      OK, sorry...instead of trying to offer you advice I made this mostly about myself (but I always think of you as not wanting advice especially not the drippy, gushy kind).
      Angela M.

  5. tis good to read what's been up

  6. Glad you're feeling better. I like the new blog name.

  7. I'm so glad to see you blogging again. Alan's school sounds wonderful. I hope it stays open for many more years, for all of your sakes! Congrats on going to confession. I know that was a huge step for you. I'm interested in what you mean by returning to scrupulosity. I wonder if it's anything like what I go through when I read the OT. Some days I think I'd make a good Orthodox Jew ;)

  8. I enjoy bursting Catholic bubbles too - so I think I get that.

  9. Just a little hello. I am so glad you're blogging again, too!

  10. Again, glad to see you back! Congrats on finding a school that you like for your son...that is a huge accomplishment! I still can't believe you drive that far, but I think you said it's mostly highway driving.? Anyway, kudos to you for that commitment. Now I hope it stays open for you, it is so sad when good Catholic schools close, both diocesan and non-diocesan ; )


  11. Thanks to everyone who is happy to see me back. It's nice.

  12. It's nice that you are back. I always enjoyed the Ceceilia's stash items, and hearing about your 'finds' at yard sales. I haunt my local Goodwill and I get an unhealthy amount of joy when I find a treasure.

    Your Mass story reminds me of last Ash Wednesday. I had HUGE intentions for it being the Best.Lent.Ever,where I really embraced the desert aspect of it. (of course, I'm from Arizona, and I miss the desert)....Anyway, I went to Mass, and my arch enemy in homeschool was there. This lady looks down on me, because I don't homeschool the 'right' way...(long story). So I sat in Mass the entire time ticked off at her, then I looked around and found other people I had gripes with blah blah. It was terrible. I made myself go to confession the next Saturday, and the priest told me the Devil was laughing at me. Which I'm sure was true. I'm glad I'm not the only one!

  13. Anonymous,
    I am absolutely positive that if I had to homeschool, I would have "arch enemies" too. In fact, I had to unsubscribe from our local homeschool forum because those people pissed me off so much. I would definitely be homeschooling the wrong way. So "you're not alone" back at ya'! Ha!

  14. So I see that my issues are not your issues, although not having read your previous blog more than once or twice, I am not completely sure what your issues are.

    The long skirted Catholic family probably enjoys being that way. Some of their kids may rebel as teens, but if you can rebel just by putting on a knee length skirt, you are way ahead of the game in my opinion. It is not as if the Church expects you to do that.

    Since my husband was not Catholic, or while we were raising our kids, not Christian of any sort, I couldn't have any of these Catholic family things. I really envy my friend whose family went to "Catholic Familyland" for their vacations. But God gave me my situation, not hers. He is a God for all seasons, so to speak. For all situations. It is not a "one size fits all sort of thing. "
    Susan Peterson

  15. Finally got a chance to read all of this and really enjoyed it. I love reading about your journey. I try to get on the blog as much as possible, Char. I sure hope Alan's school doesn't close. Sorry I don't post so often, though. Being an adult Protestant convert, every single day I end my prayers with gratitude for being Catholic.